Improving Public Policy
Landmark international Arctic fishing treaty enters into force
In June, the International Agreement to Prevent Unregulated Fishing in the High Seas of the Central Arctic Ocean came into force after ratification by all 10 signatory states—the U.S., Russia, Norway, Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark (in respect to Greenland), Iceland, China, South Korea, Japan, and the European Union. This historic agreement calls for a precautionary approach that closes this 1.1-million-square-mile area to commercial fishing for at least 16 years. It also establishes a new international model by committing to conduct research before allowing fishing in a high seas area and recognizing and incorporating Indigenous knowledge and participation. Pew experts and colleagues held workshops in countries across the world, supported the views of Inuit experts and allies, and published maps and analyses to illustrate the need for action. Pew will stay involved to make sure the promises of precaution and inclusion are met in the implementation phase.
Congress rescinds rule allowing high-cost lenders to avoid state rate caps
Congress has overturned a rule that would have enabled high-cost lenders to avoid state interest rate limits. The rule from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency had authorized so-called “rent-a-bank” arrangements—partnerships between banks and nonbank lenders that allowed the nonbank to lend at rates substantially higher than the bank would otherwise charge or that the law where the borrower lives would allow. The rescission means that banks that partner with third parties such as payday lenders will have to justify how the partnerships serve bank customers consistently with safe and sound banking practices. It helps further Pew’s goal of preserving state-level consumer protections and paving the way for a competitive market for bank-issued, safe small-installment loan alternatives. Pew’s consumer finance project helped inform the debate in letters to Congress, the comptroller’s office, and in the media.
Biden administration to restore the Roadless Rule to Alaska’s Tongass National Forest
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in July that it will undertake an expedited rule-making process to restore the full protections of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule to more than 9 million acres in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. The protections were rolled back in late 2020 by the Trump administration. Pew played a major role in establishing the Roadless Rule in 2001 and has continued to advocate for these safeguards.
Hawaii approves payday and consumer finance reforms
In June, Hawaii Governor David Ige (D) signed into law payday loan and consumer finance reform legislation that Pew helped negotiate and draft under a technical assistance agreement with senior state legislators. Over the coming year, Pew will continue to work with the Hawaii financial services regulator to help implement the law, including development of compliance tools for use by lenders and state examination officials. This helps further Pew’s consumer finance project’s goal of replicating a model state reform law. Hawaii becomes the third state to implement the model payday and consumer finance reforms, after Ohio and Virginia.
Pew and NOAA release National Estuarine Research Reserve economic report
A study commissioned by Pew and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found a strong economic case for increasing financial support for the country’s 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves and adding new ones to the federal system. The report, produced for Pew and NOAA by the Eastern Research Group, is titled “The Economic Contribution of the National Estuarine Research Reserves: A Pilot Study” and was released in June. Pew is supporting efforts in Connecticut and Louisiana to create new reserves, which are a product of a partnership between NOAA and the coastal states to protect and study valuable estuarine habitat.
Pacific Fishery Management Council votes to implement Pew-backed framework
In June, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted unanimously to implement a new Pew-backed framework for managing northern anchovy, one of the most important forage species on the U.S. West Coast. Since the late 1990s, this fishery has been managed using static, multiyear catch limits, which do not adequately protect a forage species that experiences large fluctuations in abundance and is the prime source of food for humpback whales, seabirds, and salmon. The new framework establishes a process for the council to review population estimates of anchovy every two years and calls for a full stock assessment every eight years—the last assessment was 26 years ago. The new anchovy framework is expected to be formally adopted by the council in November 2021.
Fiscal federalism initiative enters technical assistance agreement with U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee
Pew’s fiscal federalism initiative received in May a technical assistance invitation letter from Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The letter allows the initiative to advise committee staff as they work on reintroducing the DISASTER Act, a bill aimed at improving reporting of federal disaster spending—a longtime recommendation of the initiative and a focus of its research.
New funding for Indigenous land management in the Pilbara
In July, the Western Australian Government announced AUD$1.45 million in funding for the Pilbara Cultural Land Management Project, a partnership of 10 Indigenous organizations established with the assistance of Pew’s Outback to oceans Australia project. A portion of the new funding will be for use of NASA’s near-Earth satellites and Google Earth Engine for remote monitoring and management of Aboriginal lands and waters across Pilbara. This technology will allow increased surveillance of Aboriginal heritage sites, effective vegetation and fire management, and precise ecosystem monitoring. The Pilbara is an internationally significant region and a major center for the evolution of unique plants and animals, including stromatolite fossils that showcase the earliest life on Earth and a coast boasting the largest collection of rock art in the world.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits over-the-counter access to all medically important antibiotics
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June finalized guidance that will bring all animal antibiotics considered important to human medicine under the oversight of a licensed veterinarian by the end of 2023. Previously, only antibiotics administered through feed or water and a few injectable products required a prescription. Now, the remaining injectable drugs, which in total account for about 5% of medically important antibiotics, also will be regulated. Pew’s antibiotic resistance project’s research and ongoing dialogue with the agency contributed to finalizing the guidance, which marks significant progress toward the project’s overall objective to reduce antibiotic overuse in animal agriculture.
Large bank launches safe small-installment loans
In June, Huntington National Bank became the third large bank to launch a new product that substantially meets Pew’s consumer finance project’s published standards for safe small-installment loans. This new product expands access to safe installment loan options for payday loan borrowers, all of whom hold checking accounts but typically lack access to small-loan options at their banks. Huntington joins U.S. Bank and Bank of America, which together hold approximately 160 million customer accounts. The announcement furthers the consumer finance project’s goal of making installment loans that meet project standards available at 10 of the 40 largest banks and credit unions.
South Carolina funds flood-resilience programs
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R) in June signed a state budget that includes $50 million for flood disaster mitigation programs that prioritize the use of nature-based solutions to reduce future damage and risk. The funds will be used to help local governments and land trusts make voluntary buyouts of flood-prone properties and restore them to naturally functioning flood plains, provide disaster relief, and support hazard mitigation and infrastructure improvement projects. Pew and its local partners worked with key lawmakers to encourage robust funding. South Carolina is the third state, along with Virginia and Texas, where Pew’s efforts have resulted in state funding for nature-based flood mitigation solutions.
Invigorating Civic Life
Research explores how Black Philadelphians view their city
An analysis by Pew’s Philadelphia research and policy initiative examined more than a decade’s worth of polling data and found that the views of Black Philadelphians have remained generally positive toward the city. In 2020, 57% rated Philadelphia as a good or excellent place to live, and two-thirds expected to be living there in the next five to 10 years. At the same time, Black Philadelphians have tended to be more concerned about public safety than other Philadelphians. The percentage of Black residents citing public safety as the city’s top issue rose to 55% in 2020—a time when only 34% of all other Philadelphians cited public safety as the top issue. In addition, the share of Black residents who said in 2020 that they felt unsafe outside in their neighborhoods at night—59%—was the highest in the poll’s 12-year history. This latest analysis, released in June, contributes to Pew’s goal of using polling to benchmark and measure progress in Philadelphia.
Nearly $3.5 million in grants will help health and education outcomes and boost historic garden in Philadelphia
In July, the Pew Fund for Health and Human Services in Philadelphia announced that it had awarded nearly $3.5 million in new grants in its ongoing commitment to help Philadelphia-area residents and organizations as the region recovers from the impacts of COVID-19. The awards included approximately $3.2 million to help three nonprofits achieve more equitable health and education outcomes for low-income adults and children, plus $300,000 to strengthen the nation’s oldest surviving botanical garden and enhance its community-led programs and opportunities for residents of nearby Southwest Philadelphia.
Informing the Public
Generations share views on addressing climate change
A Pew Research Center report in May found that 32% of Gen Zers and 28% of Millennials say they’ve done something in the past year to address climate change, compared with 23% of Gen Xers and 21% of Baby Boomers and older adults. The survey also finds that those in Gen Z, when asked about engaging with climate change content online, are particularly likely to express anxiety about the future. Among social media users, nearly 7 in 10 Gen Zers (69%) say they felt anxious about the future the most recent time they saw content about addressing climate change. A smaller majority (59%) of Millennial social media users report feeling this way the last time they saw climate change content; fewer than half of Gen X (46%) and Baby Boomer and older (41%) social media users say the same.
Many voters who didn’t go to ballot boxes in 2016 did so in 2018, 2020
The Pew Research Center published in June a report examining how Americans voted in the 2020 presidential election and how vote choices differed from previous cycles, based on an analysis of survey data from the Center’s American Trends Panel and commercial voter files that aggregate official state turnout records. The study found that 1 in 4 voters in 2020 (25%) did not vote in 2016. About a quarter of these (6% of all 2020 voters) showed up two years later, in 2018, to cast ballots in the highest-turnout midterm election in decades. Those who voted in 2018 but not in 2016 backed Joe Biden over Donald Trump in the 2020 election by about 2 to 1 (62% to 36%). But both Trump and Biden were able to bring new voters into the political process in 2020. The 19% of 2020 voters who did not vote in 2016 or 2018 split roughly evenly between the two candidates (49% Biden vs. 47% Trump). However, as with voters overall, there was a substantial age divide within this group. Among those under age 30 who voted in 2020 but not in either of the two previous elections, Biden led 59% to 33%, while Trump won among new or irregular voters ages 30 and older, 55% to 42%. Younger voters also made up an outsize share of these voters: Those under age 30 made up 38% of new or irregular 2020 voters, though they represented just 15% of all 2020 voters.
Global views vary on pandemic restrictions, economy
A June Pew Research Center report examining global public opinion data on the response to the coronavirus pandemic found that in 12 of 13 countries surveyed in both 2020 and 2021, feelings of division within the publics surveyed have increased significantly, in some cases by more than 30 percentage points. The data, from 17 publics around the world, showed about 4 in 10 overall express the opinion that, over the course of the pandemic, the level of restrictions on public activity has been about right. A nearly equal share believes there should have been more restrictions to contain the virus. Publics in the Asia-Pacific region are most likely to think restrictions on social activity were about right, with a median of 63% holding that view. Those in North America and Western Europe, on the other hand, more frequently believe that restrictions did not go far enough in their own countries. There are similarly mixed assessments of the economic implications of the pandemic. A median of 46% say that their economy is recovering in ways that show the strengths of the economic system. A nearly equal proportion instead believe that their economy failing to recover highlights weaknesses in their economy on the whole.
Agenda for America
Resources for federal, state, and local decision-makers